Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grassroots support

A lot of people get frustrated - and justifiably so - with the political chaos generated by the 13 municipalities in our region. With exasperation in their voices, citizens ask themselves why the provincial government doesn't force amalgamation.

Personally, I don't think it's fair to expect Premier Campbell to wave his magic wand and amalgamate the CRD. I'm not a fan of this kind of "from the top" solution. It would generate deep resentment and bitterness among some residents of the Greater Victoria Area for a decade, maybe longer.

What is needed is a bottom up approach. If we want amalgamation we need to build grassroots support for the idea. First we need to develop broad support for amalgamation, and then we need to communicate that support to the provincial government.

There will always be some members of the public who oppose amalgamation. And in some cases, their opposition will be vocal and rabbid. But in my opinion it would be more difficult to remain angry about amalgamation if it came about as a result of a democratic grassroots campaign.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Toll for the Blue Bridge?

There has been a comment made by some that Victoria might have to set up a toll to pay for a replacement of the Blue Bridge.

The comment makes perfect sense given our municipal make up. In fact there should be tolls all along the Oak Bay boarder as well. If they do not want to pay they should not play.

But realistically, we cannot put up tolls for the very reason that we are one city. Downtown needs everyone to come to it to survive. A toll would be a significant disadvantage to Victoria itself. While it is more than appropriate to have a toll if no other municipality is going to help pay for the bridge, to do so would have far too much of a negative impact on Victoria.

The sad part is that it is even considered. It is considered because we are not working as one, towards a common goal. Clearly a bridge is helpful to everyone in the region. It allows emergency services to get where they are needed. It allows people to travel to see a play or visit family and friends.

It is extremely irritating to consider that this issue, which has a significant impact on every one of us, will not be debated by twelve of the municipalities.
Only one small fraction of our region will decide if and how this icon, that we all know and have a stake in, will be changed. That must be frustrating if you care about Greater Victoria.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Facebook group supports amalgamation

There is a local Facebook group called "Victoria Doesn't Need 15 Governments, It Needs to Amalagamate!"

The group was started by Ted Walton. The group currently has 69 members including myself. In case you're wondering, here is how Ted came up with 15 governments:

Oak Bay
North Saanich
Central Saanich
View Royal
Capital Regional District (CRD)
and The Islands Trust

The title of this Facebook group is a little unwieldy but the idea behind it is a good one. Facebook is a powerful social networking tool that supporters of amalgamation can use to develop grassroots support. Ask yourself this: "What would happen if a Facebook group like this had 50,000 members?" Surely local politicians would begin to pay attention.

Please join this group and show your support for amalgamation.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My first post

This is my first post for the Amalgamate Greater Victoria blog. I'm excited to contribute to the discussion and I would like to thank James for allowing me to post here.

A little about me: I lived in Victoria for a couple of years as a kid. Victoria was (and still is) a great place for children with beaches, hidden gardens, rocks for climbing etc. I moved to Chiliwack sometime around 1990 (give or take a year, it's hard to remember dates when you're that young). As a military family we moved around a lot, so I've lived all over Canada and overseas as well. I was in Halifax when that city and the surrounding municipalities amalgamated into the Halifax Regional Municipality. My last stop before permanently returning to Victoria was Toronto. That was enough to convince me that I was tired of living in big cities with cold winters.

This is my seventh year living in Victoria as an adult, and I now work as a police officer. I have a strong interest in drug policy reform, which I pursue while off-duty. Like my work in drug policy, I should clarify that any opinions I express on this blog are my own, and they don't represent those of my department.

For me the issue of amalgamation is not about lower taxes but rather better government. For the most part, because of my job, I'll stay away from commenting about local public safety issues. (Fortunately, if you look through the blog archives you'll see that James does a superb job of examining those issues.)

Lastly, I should clarify that James and I might not share the exact same vision of an amalgamated city, nor the precise path to get there. That's natural. If you talk to your neighbors about amalgamation, you'll find lots of variation. Some support one united city, some like the idea of three cities, and some simply want to merge with their neighboring municipality and no one else. It's important not to get hung up on these differences. Instead, we should focus on the fact that we can improve local government and our quality of life through some form of amalgamation.